Mac Rebennack was born in New Orleans in 1940 and by early adolescence had been taken under the wings of jazz and bayou greats like Professor Longhair and Allen Touissant and inducted in the debauched, cathartic, poetic life of a Nola musician.
Innately skilled at both guitar and piano and with a voice like none other, Mac eventually transformed himself into the voodoo high priest of Louisiana funk known, forever after as “Dr. John The Night Tripper”. “Before that I was ‘Professor Bizarre’,” he once explained to music historian Harry Smith, “Cats used to call me things like ‘Bishop’ or ‘Governor’. But when they started callin’ me “Doctor”, I just hung it on myself for keeps."
Working as a songwriter, session and touring musician for a multitude of greats, (everyone from Sonny and Cher to Frank Zappa) Dr. John came fully into his own with his 1968 solo debut “Gris Gris”. A heady, witchy brew of native New Orleans influences- jazz, blues, zydeco - the album elevated him to cult status. His live performances quickly became legend, the good doctor taking the stage replete with bejeweled cane, feathered cap, a neck strewn with mysterious amulets, and human skull topping the piano.
Drawing on the soulful, deeply human sound of the American South, the slow ease of the Mississippi, vividly haunted streets of his hometown, Dr. John, these many moons later, continues to keep us spellbound. Below, some of our favorite moments so far....